While it’s true that many visitors come to Colorado to enjoy the state’s one-of-a-kind natural beauty, there are also a wealth of cultural institutions with a little something for everyone. The state has an amazing array of museums throughout, covering everything from art and history to transportation, and it’s definitely worth spending some time touring these facilities. Here’s a list of some of the best museums to visit in Colorado.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Museum, Park, Theater
If you’re in Denver, a visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a must. The DMNS has been around for over 100 years and is still considered Denver’s leading cultural institution today. Exhibits feature everything from natural history and dinosaurs to the universe and space exploration to biology and the human body and more. The museum also has an IMAX® theater and a planetarium with daily shows and is always bringing in amazing temporary exhibits as well.
Also in Denver, the Denver Art Museum is a must-see for any art lover. The museum’s permanent collection is on par with any major art museum you might think of, and you’ll love exploring the massive collection of American Indian art. The DAM also hosts major special exhibits throughout the year. The museum’s newer addition, the Hamilton building, is an incredible architectural work of art that is a must-see.
The Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver hosts over 600 artifacts relating to historical transportation. You’ll see everything from vehicles and motorcycles to buggies and carriages, steam locomotives and public transportation to aircraft, toys and die-cast models. Highlights from the collection include the world’s largest steam locomotive—Union Pacific’s “Big Boy”—Amelia Earhart’s first car, a Stutz Fire Engine, a 1888 Denver Cable Car, and much more. If you’ve ever wondered how people have always gotten around, this is the place to find out.
History Colorado Center offers a high-tech, hands-on experience that immerses visitors in the rich history of Colorado and the West. The museum features exhibits that are media heavy, including a virtual ski jump, a virtual ride across the plains in a Model T, and an interactive time machine on a 60-foot (18.2-meter) floor map of Colorado. There are also plenty of artifacts for the museum traditionalists as well.
The Molly Brown House Museum in Denver’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood is one of only a few sites nationally dedicated to a historical figure who is a woman. Many people recognize Molly Brown as the heroine who survived the Titanic. But a visit to her Victorian home will tell you she was also a passionate activist and philanthropist. Be sure to spend some time at one of the most visited historic sites in Colorado and learn about this amazing woman.
If you’ve got little ones, the Children’s Museum of Denver is the place to be. Kids 10 and under will love this fully hands-on environment, with over a dozen exhibits that are more like “playscapes,” including a pint-sized veterinary clinic, a hands-on fire department, an interactive grocery store, and an assembly plant for junior builders. There’s also a large outdoor play area to soak up some Colorado sunshine.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, located at what used to be Lowry Airforce Base, dedicates itself to unlocking the dreams of flight for their visitors. The museum has over 50 aircraft on exhibit, as well as flight simulators and exhibits on space and Colorado astronauts. The museum also hosts a number of special events throughout the year and offers several youth educational programs.
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave near Golden explores the life of Buffalo Bill Cody, a legend of the Old West. The museum has a host of artifacts from his touring Wild West shows, including show outfits, memorabilia, and even Sitting Bull’s famous bow and arrows. You can even visit his grave site. The museum sits at Lookout Mountain Park and has some fantastic scenic views as well. There’s even a herd of buffalo nearby that you may catch a glimpse of—if you’re lucky.
Also in Golden, you’ll find the Colorado Railroad Museum, which pays year-round tribute to Colorado’s long railroad history. Visitors can take a walk around the 15-acre rail yard, which includes more than 100 historic railcars. Inside, you’ll find exhibit galleries and a library, a roundhouse restoration facility and a working turntable. In the summertime, you can even take a Saturday train ride.
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, located in the historic mining district of Leadville, is a federally chartered, non-profit mining museum—the only one of its kind. The museum sits inside a Victorian high school and sets out to honor the men and women responsible for mining our nation’s natural resources throughout history. Exhibits include replicas of mines and crystal caves, mining attire, and archival photos of those who have worked in American mines throughout the years. There are also samples of gems, precious metals, and minerals. Visitors can also tour the historic Matchless Mine and Baby Doe’s Cabin from Memorial Day weekend through September.